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Distance Learning Essentials: An Introduction

Schools are closed. People are at home. How do we adapt to a new home learning norm? We need to have uninterrupted access to online platforms for schools to keep communicating and collaborating with teachers, students and the parental community during this time. With Google’s G Suite for Education - you can! Incorporating the latest cloud-based technology, and COPPA and FERPA compliant services, schools can streamline tasks and give real-time support for their virtual class.

Check out the 6 essential distance learning tools to help you make home the new classroom... 

  1. Google Classroom

Google Classroom allows schools to remotely run classes by optimizing the way teachers organize their virtual lessons and communicate with their students. Here you can create, receive, and grade assignments, as well as provide fundamental feedback. This useful tool enables teachers to continue assessing the progress of their class, reducing potential learning gaps or disruptions that can be caused by switching to a learn-from-home environment. Plus, parents will be kept in the loop too!

Here’s how Google Classroom is ideal as a distance learning platform: 

  • Post reminders to the Stream page for quick feedback and responses
  • Choose from a range of topics to organize your virtual classroom
  • Share resources and content with students using the Materials feature
  • Use multiple choice or short-answer questions to start a conversation with individual students or the entire class
  • Assign detailed tasks for independent or groups to sustain a class community (even a virtual version!)
  • Update parents with Guardian Email Summaries, which are designed to keep parents, guardians and caregivers informed about their children’s educational journey - from grades and schedules to upcoming assignments and online participation
  1. Google Drive

Google Drive is a great collaborative home learning tool because of how straightforward and practical it is for schools. Why? It’s a simple document sharing solution which allows teachers and students to store a wide range of files such as presentations, docs, sheets, videos, images, created websites and more! Google Drive is ideal for making learning and revision remotely interactive.

With Google Drive, you can:

  • Create documents and share files, like spreadsheets, presentations, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides
  • Save, organize, and share Gmail attachments in one safe place
  • Use you mobile device to scan and upload to your Drive
  • Use your Android device to scan/ capture an image of your documents - which will be saved as a PDF for reference
  • Take advantage of up to 1-TB of storage - for FREE! This will come in handy for teachers and students to store and keep a record of files for completed assignments, email attachments for revision - plus it’s great to back up your photos and videos
  1. Google Docs

Google Docs provides schools with the means to create new documents, upload existing files and choose from a library of templates to suit your distance learning requirements. Teachers can also make the written word more engaging by inserting images and links. You can also use the Voice Typing feature for easier and quicker dictation!. Google Docs has security features as well, allowing teachers to limit the rights to who can view, edit and comment on each document.

Find out what you can do with Google Docs:

  • Create assignment docs with clear directions and instructions
  • Share docs for each student to access in Google Classroom, school, website, or LMS 
  • Create assignments or ask questions to identify any learning gaps
  • Create Hyperdocs with links to Google Forms, videos, tables or charts for students to learn, practice, and demonstrate understanding
  • Utilize the comments feature to discuss assignments or give feedback to students
  1. Google Slides

Google Slides can be used to create and share presentations as an alternative to PowerPoint. What’s more, teachers can create digital textbooks for each subject, as well as create ongoing assignments for students to produce interactive journals and portfolios. For these long-term projects, teachers can utilize the commenting feature to offer guidance and feedback while students continue on their home learning journey. 

Google Slides is ideal for:

  • Collaborating because they are easy to share and edit with Google Drive
  • Presentations due to the simple UI, have the option to add advanced animations
  • Viewing, editing, and carrying out presentations in offline and online modes
  • Accessing slide decks from any device, allowing you to edit and run them as well 
  1. Google Hangouts Meet

It can feel isolating and difficult for students to focus on work without being stimulated in a typical class environment. However, with Google Hangouts Meet, schools experiencing extended periods of distance learning are able to see, listen, and speak to their students with personable face-to-face time. Google Hangouts Meet is a prime tool for teachers to bolster a sense of togetherness while continuing to conduct remote learning by scheduling regular video calls with individuals, small groups and entire classes - whether it’s for a virtual lesson, demonstration, or catch-up. Schools can use Google Hangouts Meet to support and train their teachers as well as address any issues raised by parents.

Schools - use Google Hangouts Meet to:

  • Set-up secure virtual tutoring or 1:1 sessions for students requiring extra help
  • Maintain communication flow with parents, guardians, and caregivers
  • Record lessons that can be shared for introduction, revision, and recapping topics
  • Share screens across multiple devices to resolve issues or provide visual feedback
  • Organize meetings with fellow teachers and department heads
  1. Google Forms

Google Forms help schools to collect data from surveys and quizzes. . You can also choose to analyze the data in a spreadsheet or in your form - whichever way that is easier for you to analyze. 

Google Form are also designed to:

  • Host quizzes and tests - such as warm-ups, midweek check-ins, or formative and summative assessments \to see how well your class has grasped the topics covered in your virtual lessons
  • Create quizzes or study guides for students to complete with multiple choice options available as well as automatic grading in order for students to receive immediate feedback.
  • Survey both students and parents to gain valuable insights to improve home learning 

We hope you find this useful! Find out more information here.

6 Challenges of Traditional Professional Development

Although there is quite a bit of in-depth research regarding effective professional development (PD) and best practices for educators, studies suggest that typical PD neglects to adequately address the needs of these adult learners.  Research on adult learning supports the fact that there is a disconnect between research-based best practice and the traditional PD models found in schools. Unfortunately, it is rather challenging to meet the needs of all adult learners in typical face-to-face professional learning.  The good news is that, with a more modern, virtual approach to PD, we are able to tackle such challenges, offering innovative personalized solutions for teachers.

In studies of educators’ dissatisfaction with traditional professional development, as well as leaders’ struggles with planning for teacher training, there are several themes that repeatedly emerge in the findings.  Challenges with traditional PD for teachers include, but are not limited to, issues such as:

In our next several blog posts, we will address each of these challenges and discuss how we can leverage personalized learning in order to meet the needs of all educator-learners, regardless of role or previous experience with G Suite.